Carroll Edward Cole
Naming San Diego as his home was a strategic move on Cole's part. "As a border town," he later wrote, "it's wild and practically anything goes. Also, being in California, it's easy to get on welfare, and my record with the state hospitals qualified me for more disability."
Cole played the game to a point, training as a nurse's aide, but he was appalled by local hospital conditions. "Have you ever seen a patient eaten up with bed sores because someone didn't care enough to do their job?" he wrote. "And the verbal abuse was something else. I often thought of waylaying one of those nurses in the parking lot, killing her for the old folks, but unfortunately our classes were in the daytime."
Instead, he transferred his aggression to others. After three flings at psychiatry, Cole noted, "My urges were stronger than ever but I wasn't concerned about it anymore. I just said to hell with it and waited to see what would happen." On May 7, 1971 he met Essie Buck in a San Diego tavern and strangled her in his car, leaving her body in the trunk overnight. Next morning, Cole remembered, "I felt nothing—not elation, guilt, or any of the feelings thought to appease someone like me. Just cold nothing." He discarded the body on May 9, his thirty-third birthday.
Two weeks later, Cole would claim, he met another hard-drinking woman known only as Wilma and strangled her after a night on the town. He buried her corpse in the foothills outside San Ysidro, where it remains undiscovered today. His third victim, a week after Wilma, was killed and buried in similar fashion. If Cole ever knew her name, he had forgotten it years later, when he penned an account of the murder from prison.
In June 1971, while serving time for theft and drunk driving, Cole was questioned by San Diego homicide detective Robert Ring. Essie Buck was mentioned, startling Cole. He admitted sleeping with her on the night she died, but claimed he woke next morning to find her dead of unknown causes beside him. Cole had dumped her body in a panic, he claimed. "It was farfetched," Cole wrote in 1985, "but Ring bought it." Cole was released on schedule, in March 1972.
A short time later, hunting, he drove to San Ysidro on the Mexican border. Cole picked up two Hispanic women in a bar and took them for a ride. A few miles outside town, to drink more beer, but Cole had other plans. When one woman slipped away to relieve herself, he bludgeoned her companion with a hammer, then strangled the other upon her return. Afterward, he buried both women in the desert, two more victims who were never found.
In the summer of 1972, shortly after his release from jail on yet another drunk-driving charge, Cole met an alcoholic barmaid named Diana Pashal. They soon moved in together, although neither was monogamous. Diana's infidelity rankled, reviving memories of Cole's mother, but it did not stop him from proposing marriage in July 1973. The union was nearly as tempestuous as his first, and Cole celebrated their first anniversary by fleeing to Nevada with a girlfriend.
Diana forgave him when Cole returned home a month later, in August 1974, and they agreed that no good would come of their relationship in San Diego. They picked Las Vegas on a whim and left to start a brand-new life.
For Cole, things were about to go from bad to worse.